Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Spanish court acquits Podemos councillor over topless church protest

A Spanish court on Friday acquitted on appeal a spokeswoman for Madrid’s city council who was fined over 4,000 euros for taking her top off in a chapel in a 2011 protest.

In March, a court found Rita Maestre, a 28-year-old Podemos councillor and former student of the far-left party’s leader Pablo Iglesias, guilty of “infringing on freedom of conscience and religious convictions”.

When still a student, she burst into the chapel with 50 others at Madrid’s Complutense University, in protest against what they said was the Catholic church’s “antidemocratic and chauvinistic” positions.
She took off her t-shirt, showing her bra, and others went completely topless during the demonstration. The protest sparked an outcry, leading to discontent from right-wing politicians and the Catholic church, and it turned Maestre into a favourite target of Spanish conservatives.

Public prosecutors had asked for Maestre to be sentenced to a year in jail, the maximum penalty allowed under Spanish law for the crime, but she was fined 4,320 euros ($4,500) instead.

But an appeal court said it had cancelled the sentence, considering that “inadequate clothing or certain inappropriate gestures” were not “an act of desecration”.

On Twitter, Maestre said she was “happy, satisfied and proud”. “Good news for freedom of expression,” she added.

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